Turn End-of-Life Titles into Profit
Life was good for The Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group. The company had grown to become one of the largest independent publishers and distributors in North America. It employed hundreds of people in seven locations. And, it had printed more than 20,000 new books in its 29 years. But, life was about to get even better—as the company tapped a new, multimillion-dollar revenue stream.
THE RELATIONSHIP BUSINESS
James E. Lyons, Rowman & Littlefield president and publisher, had shared a concern of many modern-day publishers: excess inventory. The company typically ordered offset print runs that would last two years, but, occasionally, more books were printed than the company needed. Inventory was sometimes idle for long periods of time, if not wasted entirely.
So, Lyons mulled over possible solutions, including making a move to digital books and printing them on-demand. The printer that prints most of Rowman & Littlefield's books and journals, Edwards Brothers Inc., even had a Digital Book Center, but Lyons was concerned about shipping costs and logistics for transferring books from the Digital Book Center to his company's distribution facilities. He was also unsure if hard-copy books could be converted to digital and then printed quickly enough to make the effort worthwhile.
It has been said that printing in today's market is a relationship business, and that printers today aim to provide solutions, not just printing services; when Lyons mentioned his concern to John J. Edwards, CEO and president of Edwards Brothers, both of these theories gained new support. Lyons had been one of Edwards Brothers' largest and most loyal customers (the two companies have worked together for almost 25 years), and Edwards was eager to find a solution.
He mapped out an entirely new business model that included locating a digital book printing operation at Rowman & Littlefield's distribution warehouse in Blue Ridge Summit, Pa.